Why Putting People First Makes Good Business Sense

No business that strategizes around making people happy by giving them a voice and a sense that they have a stake in your business will experience less wealth. In the simplest sense we are talking about building relationships and communities around our business and the products and services we produce.


Here’s the bottom line: Putting people first is a different and a better way to think and to measure success. When we filter everything we say and do through the “putting people first” principle, we end up with a company that features the following:
1. The best products and services we can produce, because that is what people want and need.
2 Employees who are enthusiastic about their jobs and are given the responsibility and the ability to always say “yes” to customers by providing a solution, because that is what people want and need.
3. Products and services that offer great value at a fair price, because that is what people want and need.
4. A growing number of loyal and new customers, because you provide what people want and need.
5. Strong revenues and increased margins, because you provide what people want and need.
6. A company that never violates its values or acts unethically, because your focus is on people, not profits.
7. A company that communities vie for, because you provide what people want and need.
Of course, for any model to work, you must believe, you must be passionate in that belief and you must work hard to make the business achieve its goals and objectives.

10 Easy Ways to Get More Facebook Likes for Your Business Page

In order to achieve success on Facebook you need a community. That’s a fact. If you don’t have a community, you don’t have anyone listening to you, and if there’s no one listening to you, it’s difficult to build brand awareness and deliver ROI.

You need a community filled with people who like you and share your content with like-minded friends. But it’s not just about the quantity of Facebook likes that you collect, it’s about the quality; attracting Facebook likes from a group targeted to suit your business goals whose comments (and endorsement!) can increase your shares on Facebook.

So here are ten quick and easy tips to drive targeted Facebook likes to your business page.

1. Complete your Facebook Business Page Profile

Your Facebook Page is the first thing people see when they come to visit you on Facebook. Let visitors know why they should like you! Create a catchy description and make sure you categorize your page correctly. Also make sure to list your address, phone number and hours of operation (if applicable). Not only will this inform your potential followers, it will tell Facebook what kind of organization you are you so they know to show your page when users are searching for companies like yours – which can increase your Facebook likes even more!

2. Ask friends, business partners and other contacts to like you on Facebook

Friends are like underpants. Some snap under pressure, some are a little twisted, but some will give you support. When you first create a Facebook Page invite your supportive friends, family and business partners to like your Facebook Page. These initial likes will give you higher social media credibility and visibility. Then, alert your customers, prospects and your other social communities, and promote your Facebook page anywhere you mention your website. If people don’t know your Facebook page exists, they can’t like it.

3. Add social plugins to your website

Visitors on your website should be able to  find your Facebook Page easily. My recommendation is to use Facebook’s Social Plugins, like the Like box plugin, to get more Facebook likes. These plugins include a like button, your recent posts, and pictures of some of your fans.

4. Find out what interests your community

With Facebook’s new Graph Search it’s really easy to find out what interests your target community, and post relevant content to increase Facebook likes.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say that I have a Facebook Page for my new pizza restaurant in San Francisco. To learn more about my target community’s interests, I search for “Favorite interests of people who like Restaurants and live in San Francisco, California.“ Facebook tells me that my target community also likes cooking, wine tasting and traveling.

Facebook Graph Search Results

 

 

 

 

I also want to see the interests of my competitors’ communities, so I search for “Favorite interests of people who like Pizza Hut and Domino’s Pizza,” and I find out that they like cooking, chocolate chip cookies, eating, food and partying.

This information is great to have at hand when I’m thinking about what to post on my Facebook page. By posting content that my audience is interested in (for example, suggesting which wines go well with my pizza) they will share it with their friends and help me get more Facebook likes. This same content will also attract likes from people who come to my Facebook page from my website, email signature, or a Facebook search.

5. Use Facebook Ads

Facebook ads are another great way to increase Facebook likes. To get the most out of your ads, you can target by your community’s interests to find people similar to your current fans.
In the image below, you can see how I’ve used the information that I got from Graph Search and how I’ve targeted my ad for my new pizza place.

Facebook Ads

 

 

 

 

Experiment with different types of ads to see what works best for your organization, and make sure you choose the option that allows Facebook users to like your page directly from the ad.

6. Run a contest

There are many companies that have created successful contests on Facebook that resulted in many thousands of Facebook likes. But there are some things that you need to know before you create your own contest. For starters, make sure that your contest follows Facebook’s promotion guidelines. Your contest must use a Facebook app, which allows you to create a fan-gate, so that only those who first like your page can participate in the contest. Apps also have a unique URL, so you can promote your contest with a Facebook ad and increase Facebook likes even more.

Also, when you create a contest make sure that your app is working for mobile users, that the content of the contest is funny, that it’s easy to participate and that the contest encourage users to share their result and participation with their friends.

7. Like, and interact with, other companies

Did you know that you can engage with other company pages as your Business Page on Facebook? This is a great way to build awareness among like-minded companies and their followers.  To do this, visit your Facebook Page, click on “Edit Page” in your Admin Panel and select “Use Facebook as YourPage.”

Facebook Like as Page

Finding companies to like and interact with is easy. Use Graph search and search for e.g. companies, pages, places that is of interests for your company and like these Pages (you can’t like personal profiles).

After you have liked some Pages, you can view your company’s Newsfeed and engage with the pages you like. Not only is the company likely to follow you back, but their engagement with your page will help you increase Facebook likes amongst their followers as well.

8. Publish engaging content

It’s important to publish engaging, entertaining and interesting posts on a regular basis, and to keep an eye out for the posts that get the most engagement. If your posts are valuable to your followers, then they will share your posts with their friends, helping you increase your Facebook likes. Images are among the best types of post for driving engagement so make sure you publish images your followers can relate to and will like. You may also want to include calls to action in some of your posts, asking followers to like, comment or share your content, or ask your community a question.

9. Be active

By now you know that you should publish engaging, interesting and entertaining content. But how often should you post? There is no magic number but there are best practices and analytics to guide you. Post at least one status update per day, and experiment with the timing of your posts to see when the majority of your followers are active. People are unlikely to like your Facebook page if you don’t post regularly – and they certainly won’t engage with your content (or help you get more likes) if they don’t see your posts.

10. Measure, analyze and learn

Use Facebook Insights to find useful metrics on your page performance. You can see things like reach (how many users are seeing your posts), engaged users (how many users engage with your posts) and new likes (when and why do you get new followers). These metrics will help you understand what’s driving your likes and engagement, so that you can adjust your posts accordingly. If you would like to know if you have good engagement, or want other recommendations for improvement, try out our free Facebook analytics tool, LikeAlyzer.

Would you like to add any tips for getting more Facebook likes? Did I forget something? Please add a comment and, if you like the post, feel free to share it with your friends

Can Blogging Work as a Marketing Tool?

Yes, it can. My two most recent clients hired me because of what they read on my blog and at my Web site. That is significant because for marketing to be accepted and effective, it must result in sales. I know some disagree, and that’s one of the great things about this medium. It is interactive, immediate, and informal… key ingredients to good communications.


When I first started blogging nearly a year ago (my first anniversary is June 13), one of my goals was to use my site the same as I use all my outlets for writing–as a way to brand myself and my business. But to be successful, my branding efforts must lead to work. Newspaper and magazine articles, as well as TV and radio guest appearances and my books have always done that. I saw no reason why blogging shouldn’t be able to build my brand image, market my business philosophy and values, offer lot of free content for my readers, and lead to work. It has.
The point I want to make is that blogging does not need to be sold only as a way to have a conversation with your readers, customers and clients. While that is a good thing in and of itself, I don’t believe it is the right argument to make when we offer blogging (or any of the social media tools) to our business clients.
The primary purpose of a business is sales. And every marketing tool should support that purpose. I now have proof that blogging does, when done correctly and when our posts serve our reader’s wants and needs, the basic foundation of all marketing and branding efforts.
Here is my challenge to you: If you believe that blogging is an effective marketing tool, pretend that we are potential customers and clients and give us your best pitch. If you don’t believe that this medium can be an effective marketing tool, tell us why.

Happiness and consumption

When we first hear the headline “Happiness and Consumption”, the first thing we think of is the discussion whether consumption leads to happiness or not. There are several approaches to this question and we will deepen our analysis in some of the most representative ones. In any case, the issue about “Happiness and Consumption” could be understood the other way round: does happiness lead to consumption? This approach, although not evident, might be plausible, as well.

Seek of happiness is a relative recent concept; what is happiness? The first approach to this question might be satisfying Maslow’s pyramid of needs (of course, each individual is in a different level in each period of his/ her life). Coming to our point, mankind has always tried to achieve the levels and in the order explained by Maslow, but nowadays we need much more complex achievements to be content with the degree we perform in each level of the pyramid. Performing well in every level has become a more difficult duty, and this is the point where consumption steps in. We try to satisfy our needs with material things, which is linked to the materialistic culture of Western society, which is also spreading to the industrializing countries. There are several detractors of this view and we are going to analyze them as well.

MICROECONOMIC VIEW

We start with the most classical economic view of “happiness”:The microeconomic view of utility and goods is a consequence of the Western view of happiness.

Economics explains consumer behaviour and its seek of happiness in terms of utility, which is thought to be a positive function of the level of consumption of goods and services. In other words, the more an individual consumes, the happier he/she is.

When economists expose this theory, they portray a consumer that chooses between consumption of two goods, between consumption and leisure, and between consumption at different time periods. The consumer tries to maximize his/her utility depending on his/her prior needs. As it may become clear at this point, the needs are covered by material things. In fact, several authors define the entire subject of economics to examine how limited resources are allocated in alternative ways to satisfy human wants. According to them, the goal of economic activity is to achieve efficiency, which is usually to maximize the production of goods and services.

Consequently, consumption is seen as the driving force of the economy, providing people with the incentive to expend their time and energy to obtain more and better things.

OTHER ECONOMIC VIEWS

Referring to other economic views, as a brief introduction, we could compare the levels of happiness between different periods of history in which income levels vary considerably. For instance, income in the United States has risen a lot since the end of the Second World War and yet, the proportion of US population that assures to be happy remains more or less the same. More generally, time series data in individual countries that have experienced significant increases in income and consumption do not lead to significant increases in their level of happiness over time (the same applies to individuals, not only whole countries). Analyzing levels of self-reported happiness among different countries in the same period of time, we also get the same results: those that evidence higher levels of per capita income and consumption do not report to have a higher level of happiness beyond a certain level of income. Some authors show empirical proof for this, such as Deiner and Shigehiro, Frey and Stutzer, Andrew Oswald and Easterlin (who created the “Easterlin paradox”).

There are some possible explanations for this; first, human beings look over their shoulder all the time to compare what they own with what others own. They are on a “hedonic treadmill”; once basic needs are satisfied, humans care rather about relative than about absolute levels of income.

To expose the second explanation we draw back to the microeconomic view; utility grows when income does so, but each additional increase of utility is smaller than the previous one. In other words, marginal utility is decreasing. After a certain level of income, utility does not increase anymore (actually, according to the microeconomic theory, it may even decrease). Some studies suggest that in the short term people are happier – even if temporarily – but then their happiness level diminishes again.

Friedman and Savage propose that there are indeed some income increases that lead to increasing marginal utility; according to microeconomic theory, people are enemies of risk and therefore no one should have any incentives to take part in a lottery game. As lottery proves to be very popular in a lot of countries, Friedman and Savage conclude that marginal utility is increasing with respect to very high income growths that can change one’s life.

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In any case, this is a very special case and we focus on the idea that happiness cannot be measured through income.

There are some authors in favour of the existence of a strong link between happiness and consumption, such as Frijters, Haisken-DeNew and Shields (2004), who analyzed the changes in happiness of East Germans after the transition from communism. However, their findings seem not to take into account other socioeconomic changes that took place due to the transition.

MEASUREMENT OF HAPPINESS

What if we cannot measure happiness through GDP anymore? The solution proposed by many economists is the introduction of GHL (gross happiness level). Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Buthan’s King in 1972, invented the term Gross National Happiness (GNH) to substitute GDP in order to measure quality of life and social progress in a more holistic way, introducing aspects that GDP did not contain. This approach is based on the Buddhist mentality, which states that beneficial development of human society takes place when development is not only material but also spiritual. Buddhism relies on four pillars and GHL divides these four pillars in eight categories: time-balance, social and community vitality, cultural vitality, education, living standards, good governance and ecological vitality. Bhutan proves to be a “happy country” but this is highly affected by their concept of happiness they have: Buddhist economics proposes alternative principles such as minimizing suffering, simplifying desires, nonviolence, genuine care, and generosity. Buddhists do not expect to achieve great things to be happy, but they are content when minimizing suffering. In this sense, we could quote Fontenelle`s words: “expecting too high happiness is an obstacle to be happy”.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONSUMPTION AND PURCHASE

One thing is not completely clear in this definition: according to what has been discussed up to this point, the question is whether we should rely on income to seek happiness, but actually income is not exactly consumption. However, we dedicated this space to talk about income and not directly about consumption because the level of consumption is usually proportionate to income. One could go a bit further and add that consumption does not necessarily imply buying things. It only implies that goods and services, independently from where they come from, are a source of happiness but we could get them by other means, such as creating them by ourselves, but we will not explain this kind of consumption in greater depth as we prefer to concentrate on consumption of purchased things, which can be expanded on consumption of ideas, lifestyles, etc.

RELIGION AND CONSUMPTION

Coming directly to the point of consumption, we could continue the path that we started when talking about Buddhism; the view of religions towards consumption is usually against materialism and in favour of strictly buying what we need (by the way, what we need and what we do not is another interesting issue). From the religious point-of-view, religions are supposed to give meaning to life and, in this sense, the purpose of consumption should just be to provide safety, food, shelter, etc. but in recent times consumption is competing with religions; the “religion of consumption” is being created. According to “Young and Rubicam”, one of the most prestigious communication agencies in the world, brands are now a new religion; people rely on them seeking the meaning of life. The agency compares itself with the missionaries who spread religions all over the world. The general opinion of religions is that they, just like brands, are based on powerful ideas, but whereas religions do provide a meaning to life, products just create the false sensation that we are more valuable in the eyes of others. Materialism is a disease of low self-esteem. Saint Francis of Assisi or Gandhi did not own superfluous objects that distracted their attention from the others and from God.

And so we come to the question already suggested above: does consumption lead to happiness?

All successful brands convince consumers about the fact that they –the brands- are able to satisfy the consumer’s needs. If satisfying needs is creating happiness, brands make consumers happier. The problem comes when brands keep creating new wants in consumers so that these have the impression that they never fulfill their needs completely. First, consumers need to believe that consumption will satisfy their needs and secondly, their expectations about happiness must never be achieved because they have to keep growing or changing. And in this case consumption will not lead to happiness.

SUSTAINABLE CONSUMPTION

The ideal kind of consumption would be sustainable consumption: substantial reduction of consumption (to avoid depletion of resources and to leave room for those who do not have much money), eco-friendly consumption and tradition-friendly consumption when it is a suitable option (small farmers, homemade products…).

Focusing on the problem of waste of resources, there comes a point where using more resources actually reduces your quality of life (and quality of life is connected to happiness). This can be seen on this graph; in this view, we do not only compare “income” with happiness, but we also include the effort to get this income, but this is usually like that in real life.

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When you use a lot of resources and you spend a lot of money and effort on something, you eventually end up feeling overwhelmed; your mind and your life are crowded. The more you have and the more you do, the worse you feel. If you start using fewer resources, you find yourself with more free time, eating more healthily. There is a point in the middle called the point of habituation where you do not feel happier with more achievements. The goal is being exactly in the point where you are really conscious of what you use, you do not take things for granted and you understand that your actions have consequences for other people and the planet. It is the point between asceticism and waste, between self-denial and self-indulgence and it is similar to the view that religions have about consumption (only that religions do not refer directly to eco-friendly consumption).

The materialistic view thinks the following about those characteristics:

– Happier with more consumption

Happiness is commonly associated with a high material standard of living and many purchases are driven by the expectation that they will make life more satisfying, especially the purchase of durable consumption good and the spending of money on holidays.

Not happier with eco-friendly consumption

Consumers are optimistic and think that technology will solve the problem of resources depletion.

Not happier with tradition-friendly consumption

The fact that these products tend to become obsolete (sometimes due to planned obsolescence) is seen to convey that modern products are more attractive.

BRANDS AND HAPPINESS

So in the previous section we come to the conclusion that there is a point where we cannot be happier anymore through consumption. Let us imagine that we are not at this point yet. We start with a practical example:

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In this case, Apple is not just selling a mobile phone, which is used to communicate with others (practical use); Apple is selling identification with a brand that target consumers value a lot (Maslow’s self-esteem level), belonging to a group of latest technology-owners (belonging level), being unique because of having a very special device (self-actualization/ self-esteem)… In this sense, the IPhone is satisfying needs that the consumers wants to satisfy in order to be happier. This needs could be satisfied by means that would not require any money, but here Apple has managed to offer something which consumers have to pay for and which Apple profits from. Whether this is ethical or not is another issue (some people could think so, but this is not the issue in this essay).

The question is whether the brand satisfies the need completely or it keeps stimulating wants in the consumers so that they always desire new products. This is the case for example of planned obsolescence. Planned obsolescence is deliberately planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so that it becomes obsolete or nonfunctional after a certain period of time. Planned obsolescence has potential benefits for a producer because the consumer is under pressure to purchase again. Products produced this way have not necessarily designed to fail technically; “fail” can simply become obsolete because they are not fashionable anymore. Examples of this can be:

– The creation of new IPhone models every year with new applications that Apple consumers do not want to miss.

– Fashion in clothes every new season (bell-bottoms are not used anymore and some years ago they were the last word in fashion)

– Printers designed to print a specific number of pages and high reparation costs if the consumer wants to repair it instead of buying a new one

– IPhone battery designed to last very little

– Printing cartridges that stop being produced or that have a slightly different shape from the cartridges used in new models of printers of the brand; the printer may work perfectly, but it has no suitable cartridges

COMMUNICATION OF BENEFITS

Coming back to the personality of the brand, to make consumers identify more with them, brands try to communicate their positioning and the benefits belonging to it in their communication campaigns. Advertisers rely on topics such as happiness, youth, success, status, luxury, fashion, beauty, etc. In advertising, social contradictions and class differences are hidden and workplace conflicts that may take place in the enterprise are not shown. Advertising campaigns suggest that solutions to human problems are to be found in individual consumption, presented as an ideal outlet for mass energies.

This again makes us wonder whether the target population is really happy buying these products because the can only be really happy if they buy something when it is them who decide to buy it. This does not necessarily mean that they are not manipulated; advertising can manipulate them and then it is them who decide that they want to buy what the advertisement shows. Manipulating, in any case, can be interpreted as creating wants from existing needs.

In this sense, brands often refer in their communication campaigns to the freedom of the consumer to buy whatever he wants… by buying the product of that brand. Although it is quite paradoxical, this also contributes to the happiness of the consumer. One example:

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CONSUMPTION OF IDEAS

Ideas can be consumed, as well. Brands, political parties, religions, friends, etc. surround us with ideas that forge our mentality. Actually, in the era of materialism, we are overloaded by physical products and by services and brands are not interested anymore in selling such products and services referring to their functional features; a car is not a vehicle to drive to work anymore. It is a life as a successful businessman. The ideas that products are services appeal to have already been explained in greater depth in previous sections. The interesting part here is how political mentalities or religious beliefs can be consumed as a way to obtain happiness. When you choose a certain political party or you decide whether to have religious beliefs or not, you are choosing in some way a specific lifestyle that implies a specific culture, a specific social circle, etc. and this again is a way to achieve what we consider a happy life.

DOES HAPPINESS LEAD TO CONSUMPTION?

As we already explained in the beginning of this essay, the most obvious reaction to the title “Happiness and consumption” is to think whether consumption leads to happiness, but another approach would be to wonder whether consumption can be the result of happiness as well. When we are happier, we are in the mood to do more things that please us and one of them may be consuming, just like in the example of L’Oréal’s claim “because I’m worth it”. We have the energy to afford whims we wish and our bodies provoke the chemical reaction that makes us more creative, which eventually leads to consumption to express this creativity; for example, we may have much more ideas to combine different clothes.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

The final objective of consumption seems to be happiness, but there is a point in our level of consumption from which utility does not seem to grow anymore and Western countries have reached this point by far-actually, there are some cases where utility may decrease with an overwhelming level of consumption. Increases of happiness occur only in the short term and then consumers return to their “standard” maximum level of happiness. What companies now do continuously is creating wants from pre-existing needs in order to make consumers desire this short term happiness.

Anyway, what we call happiness varies among different mentalities and so we could take the example of religions. Most religions argue that consumption just leads to false illusions and, focusing on Buddhism, its concept of happiness makes in no way possible that consumption of products and services lead to it.

Brand and Branding

Who owns your brand?

I don’t mean this in a “does you consumer now control the brand?” kind of way. I mean it in a, “where do people go to connect with your brand?” kind of way. I was flipping through an in-flight magazine yesterday and noticed a two-page spread for a diaper company. There was a massive call to action in the bottom right-hand corner of the print ad that said something like: “to lean more, please follow us on Facebook.” I found myself asking a very simple question: “what is this brand of diapers doing on Facebook that is so unique to the brand experience that it can’t be done on their own website?” The answer (after a quick review) is nothing. This brand’s Facebook page isn’t doing much to leverage the power of the social graph or use Facebook’s functionality to extend the brand narrative in a unique way. They’re just using Facebook as a place to have a less-interactive and less-branded website.

Why is it less-branded?

What’s better: one clear message or five messages on the same page? When you have you own website, you control the amount of messaging and the engagement. When you have your brand page on Facebook (and I’m using Facebook as a euphemism for any online social network, be it Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn or whatever), your brand is housed within the Facebook branded experience and there could be ancillary brands (or advertisements, whatever) in the mix as well.

The tough question.

Brands have to start asking themselves one very tough question: are we on Facebook because it makes our brand experience better and leverages the power of these millions of connected people, or are we on Facebook, because there are a lot of people there and we have been unable to garner that level of attention with our own digital experiences and spaces? Facebook isn’t bad. Facebook is great. But, Facebook is only great to the brands that people care about, and it’s only great when those brands are already connected to their consumers and leverage the Facebook experience to do a whole lot more.

Brands are getting lazy.

It’s not just brands, it’s also the agencies that serve them. With each and every passing day, I’m seeing more and more brands forgo their own web and mobile experiences to use social media environments as their primary place to connect. Years ago, I cautioned against this. It became a more prescient concept when MySpace collapsed as Facebook began to gain its momentum. At the time, I had many of my musician friends suddenly lose their entire audience. Back then, it was much easier to build and update a MySpace page than it was to build and nurture a unique website. The problem is that when everyone started bailing on MySpace, the bands were left with little community. On top of that, they had no way to take the sweat equity (content, connections and more) to another platform. They didn’t own it. MySpace did. When MySpace changed their rules, the bands were affected but couldn’t do much about it. Same with Facebook: it’s their playground and they can take their ball and go home whenever they want.

Today.

Today, more and more brands are doing the exact same thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, Google + or whatever. They’re allowing their brands to not only play second fiddle within the compounds of these online social networks, but they’re selling their brands short with the shiny, bright objects du jour instead of looking out on to the horizon. Why is this such a big deal? We’re seeing our world become more and more mobile. Facebook, Google and everyone else have yet to demonstrate how they’re going to take their current connections of users and migrate them over to a mobile platform that is just as engaging and compelling as what we’re seeing in the current browser-based format. What makes any brand (and agency) think that they’re going to get this right? Immediately, any brand can create a new website in HTML5 and leverage responsive technology to develop a platform that is – at the very least – manageable across all devices and screens. At the same time, these same brands can spend as much time and money as they wish creating a better brand narrative – without the restrictions and limitations set out by any other digital media company.

Fear is the mindkiller.

It’s just easier to play in someone else’s sandbox, isn’t it? Fear is holding everyone back. Unlimited creativity and opportunity is holding these brands back. It’s a shame. A brand that can provide a true experience and extend that brand narrative by providing utility and being there – wherever – the consumer is, will be the winning brands of the near-future. If consumers want to shop the brand wherever and whenever they want, but these brands are locking themselves in to other channels and platforms, they’re missing the biggest opportunity that social technology has brought: the ability to create a powerful and direct relationship with a consumer.

20 Corporate Brand Logo Evolution

Have you ever wonder how the first Apple logo looks in 30 years back? Did you know Volkswagen was Hitler’s idea? Or how the IBM logo changes over the time? Or where the Mercedes-Benz Brand And The Three-Pointed Star logo came from?

As we already know that Logo is the identities that are fundamental to building a brand and communicating with the target audience. Many well-known corporate brand changes their logo to archive the perfect identification because identity’s creation is not an occasional activity, but a permanent one.

Below we listed 20 Corporate Brand Logo Evolution with their fascinating stories linked to their current official site.

Let’s take a look at the Interesting stories behind the logos of some of the most popular brands in the world. Be sure to let us know if I have missed anything!

You may be interested in the following related articles as well.

· Mind Blowing Collection of Business Card Designs

· Mind Blowing Collection of Business Card Designs – PART II

· 90 Inspirational And Creative Portfolio Designs

Feel free to join us and you are always welcome to share your thoughts that our readers may find helpful.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our RSS-feed and follow us on Twitter — for recent updates.

Corporate Brand Logo Evolution

01. Apple

It is one of the biggest consumer electronics and Software Company, best known for products like Macintosh, iPod and iphone. Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne had together setup Apple in 1976, to sell their hand-built computer Apple I. They had offered their product to HP first but were declined by them. I think HP would still be regretting this today.

The road to success wasn’t easy for Apple, and Wayne liquidated his share in the company for a mere $ 800. After the launch of Apple II in 1977, things started to look up for Apple and we all know what heights the company has reached since then.

Apple II was successful mainly because it had colored graphics. Great and simple design, has always been the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) for Apple, and their logo is no exception. When Apple was started, the logo was a complicated picture of Isaac Newton sitting under a tree. This had been designed by Jobs and Wayne, with the inscription: “Newton … A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought … Alone.” Frankly, I don’t think it was just a coincidence that Apple had slow sales during this period.

However, Steve Jobs hired Rob Janoff to simplify the logo, which turned out to be a great idea. Rob created the ‘Rainbow Apple’ which was the logo for company till 1998. There are many rumors as to why Rob had chosen to create such a logo. One of them says that the Apple was a tribute to Newton (discovery of gravity from an Apple), and since the USP for Apple at that time was colored graphics, it had the rainbow colors. Another explanation exists that the bitten apple pays homage to the Mathematician Alan Turing, who committed suicide by eating an apple he had laced with cyanide. Turing is regarded as the father of computers. The rainbow colors of the logo are rumored to be a reference to the rainbow flag, as homage to Turing’s homosexuality.

Janoff, however, said in an interview that though he was mindful of the “byte/bite” pun (Apple’s slogan back then: “Byte into an Apple”), he designed the logo as such to “prevent the apple from looking like a cherry tomato.”

When Apple launched the new iMac in 1998, they changed their logo to a monochromatic apple logo, almost identical to the rainbow logo. Now, the Apple logo comes with nice gradient chrome silver design. It is one of the most recognized brand symbols in the world today, and the shape is what identifies the company more than the color.

Official Link

02. Shell

Back in 1900, when the company was started the logo was a realistic and simple shell which lies flat on the ground. This was a pectin or scallop shell, but today the company has a logo which is bold, colorful and much more simplistic.

The evolution of the logo began after 1915, when rendering enabled the company to reproduce its identity easily. This is visible in the 1930 logo for the company. When the company started a project in California, it added the red and yellow colors to the symbol. The colors help Shell to stand out. Additionally, these are the colors of Spain, where many Californian settlers were born, which might have helped the company to create an emotional bond with the people.

With the advent of internet and fax machines over the later years, it became necessary for the company to simplify their logo, which would prevent it from being distorted in small images. The 1971 logo designed by Raymond Loewy is very simple as compared to the earlier logos.

This has helped the company because this logo is more memorable and recognizable, accountable to the simplicity of the logo. The 1971 logo is still used by the company albeit with minor changes, but it has become so recognizable that it often appears without the company name now.

Official Link

03. Xerox

The Xerox Company used to be known as the Haloid Company almost 100 years ago. But in 1938, Chester Carlson invented a technique called xerography which we today call the photocopy technique. Unfortunately no one was willing to invest in his invention, and many big giants like IBM, GE, RCA and others decided not to finance this invention.

But Haloid Company decided to go with Chester and made the first photocopying machine named Haloid Xerox 14. As can be seen in their logos, the original Haloid word which was prominent in the company’s logo before 1961 was completely replaced by Xerox due to the immense success of this idea.

They retained almost the same logo from 1961 to 2004. But in 2004 there was a problem with the Xerox books and it tried to reinvent itself with a new logo. People associate the company only with photocopy machines, and that has been a major problem for Xerox.

The company changed its logo in 2008 to get away from this stereotyped image, by changing the font of the word. They also added a ball which has a stylish X instead of their ‘boring’ X in earlier times According to Anne M. Mulcahy, Xerox’s chief, that little piece of art represents the connection to customers, partners, industry and innovation.

Official Link

04. BMW

BMW or Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (Bavarian Motor Works) was originally founded as an aircraft company. The aircrafts manufactured were painted with the colors of the Bavarian flag, which is the color of BMW logo. Another explanation is that when the pilot used to sit in the plane he would see alternating segments of white and blue due to rotation the plane propeller (blue being the sky).

The major business of BMW was to supply planes to the German army during World War I. But after the war they were forced to change their business. It made railway brakes, before making motorized bicycle, motorcycles and cars.

The logo itself hasn’t changed a lot during the years, but now has a more stylish look due to the different gradients. The unchanged logo has made it easier for people to remember and has given the company more recognition.

Official Link

05. Nike

Nike probably got the best deal amongst all companies when Caroline Davidson designed its logo for just $35 in 1971. The main part of the logo hasn’t really changed with time. However, I don’t understand why they waited for 7 years before they realized that the text and the swoosh were overlapping each other.

As the brand gained recognition, the company name was dropped from the logo, which made it more simplistic and memorable. The company has different variations of this logo for its various departments like Skate, Soccer etc.

Official Link

06. IBM

As you would observe from the logos above that IBM was earlier known as The International Time Recording Company (ITR), whose major products were mechanical time recorders, invented and patented by Willard L. Bundy in 1888. So in the earlier periods the logo of the company had ITR inscribed on it. Later in 1911, ITR was merged with the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, which is why you will see that both ITR and CTR are there in the 1911 logo.

In 1924, the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company adapted the name International Business Machines Corporation. The ornate, rococo letters that formed the “CTR” logo were replaced by the words “Business Machines” in more contemporary sans-sarif type, and in a form intended to suggest a globe, girdled by the word “International.”
In 1947, IBM decided to drop the globe from its logo, which was by then quite familiar amongst the people. The logo was not the only change in 1947; it was accompanied by a change in business from the punched-card tabulating business to computers. The typeface of this logo was called Beton Bold.

In 1956, before Thomas J. Watson, Sr died he appointed Tom Watson, Jr. as the CEO. Tom Watson, Jr. decided to project the beginning of a new era in the company, for that he changed the company’s logo as well as the actions. Paul Rand designed the new logo which represented that the changes in the company would be subtle and will not disrupt the continuity. Also, the new logo looked more solid, grounded and balanced.

Another change in the logo was designed by Paul Rand which had stripes instead of the solid font. It depicted ‘speed and dynamism’. Since, then the logo has more or less remained the same, and the design has been recognized and replicated all over the world.

Official Link

07. Canon

The company had always wanted a global perspective, and the logos reflected the same as early as 1934. A specialized advertising designer had created the logo which included typeface never seen before in Europe or North America.

The first camera launched by the company in 1934, was named as Kwanon, after the Buddhist goddess of mercy. The logo included the wordings and a picture of the goddess with 1000 arms and flames.

As the years went by, like all other logos we have seen above, the company strived to make the logo as simple and memorable as possible. The logo had only been trademarked in 1935, and after that a lot of designing work went into making the logo more balanced. After 1956, the logo hasn’t been changed, but the designing effort is clearly visible in their simple but classic logo.

Official Link

08. Google

The clarity of thought is visible in the company’s logo right from the very beginning, when in 1996 two Stanford University computer science graduate students Larry Page and Sergey Brin built the search engine.

The name of the search engine is derived from Googol (meaning one followed by 100 zeros). Google’s first logo was created by Sergey Brin, after he taught himself to use the free graphic software GIMP. Later, an exclamation mark mimicking the Yahoo! logo was added. In 1999, Stanford’s Consultant Art Professor Ruth Kedar designed the Google logo that the company uses today.

Official Link

09. Kodak

Interestingly, Kodak was the first company to integrate its name and looks into one symbol in 1907. After 1935, Kodak predominantly used yellow and red colors and the complete name of the company. First time the Kodak name was completely written in the logo in 1935, which began the use of yellow and red colors as well.

In 1960, they tried to show a flip page as a logo, but was changed to a box and graphic “K” element in 1971. I think the logo in 1971 was quite trendy, but it might have been a little complex. Retaining the 1971 concept, there was a slight variation in the font in 1987. The new font looked contemporary.

Again, like other companies, Kodak decided to simplify their logo in 1996, and removed the boxes. The red color gives a more brighter and structured feel of the company. In 2006, again a slight variation was made in the logo with a rounded ‘a’ and ‘d’, to give a contemporary look.

Official Link

10. Microsoft

The Microsoft story began in 1975, when Bill Gates and his friend Paul Allen coded the first computer language for a PC and named it BASIC. Soon they named their partnership as Micro-Soft which explains the first logo of the company.

They changed the logo in that year itself and dropped the hyphen too. For the next 12 years, the logo had a distinctive O. The employees called this as “Blibbet”. It is said that at that time, the Microsoft cafeteria even had a double cheeseburger named “”Blibbet Burger”.

When a new logo came on in 1987, there was a campaign within the company to “Save the Blibbet”. But, this couldn’t stop the company from adopting a new logo. The logo designed by Scott Baker, came to be known as “the Pacman logo” due to the distinctive cut in the O.

In 1994, they integrated their tagline ‘Where do you want to go today?’ within the logo. This was widely mocked and the company kept trying different taglines like People Ready, Start Something, Making it Easier etc.

The new 2008 logo has all the text in Italics (including the tagline), but the look of the logo has remained pretty much the same. Basically, the company is so well renowned already, that I don’t think the logo needs to change, since people already recognize and connect with it worldwide.

Official Link

11. Volkswagen

Volkswagen means ‘People’s car’ in German. The history of the company is tied with Adolf Hitler.
Before the rise of Hitler, the German economy was in a very bad shape; as a result people couldn’t afford to buy cars. In 1933, Hitler raised the idea of an inexpensive car in the Auto show.

In 1934, Ferdinand Porsche met with Hitler to design the car. Hitler gave him all the specifications of the car and Porsche promised to deliver the design. In 1937, the Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH was created (it became simply Volkswagenwerk GmbH a year later). In 1938, Hitler opened a state funded Volkswagen factory in Walburg. It was suppose to produce commercial cars, but it was used to churn out military cars. It was only later found that Hitler had intended to use the Porsche car as a military vehicle only, which could carry 3 men and a machine gun.

After the WWII, Britishers took over the company. They renamed the car as Beetle. Surprisingly all the car makers like Fiat and Ford declined to take ‘free control’ of the Volkswagen factory. So, it was returned to the German government, and went on to become one of the world’s bestselling cars ever.

The first logo was designed by Franz Xavier Reimspiess, a Porsche employee during an office logo design competition. The main part of the logo hasn’t changed much, but understandably after the WWII, they got rid of the design around the circle which seems to be inspired from the Nazi flag. I love the colors that were added in 2000, to the logo which was built after WWII, it depicts a positive change in the company and the ability to adapt to the new millennium.

Official Link

12. MasterCard

In 1966, seventeen bankers formed a federation for the reciprocal acceptance of their credit cards. They called this federation as Interbank and hence, the first 1966 logo. The ‘i’ was used to identify the participating members of Interbank Card Association.

In 1969, the name was changed to Master Charge. The new logo had the two familiar intersecting circles which make sense when we think about the interbank card business. Also, the ‘i’ was retained at the bottom to show continuity and also to make it easy for people to recognize their earlier familiar logo.

Finally, in 1979, the name MasterCard was adopted and they lost the ‘i’ from the logo. In 1990, bold colors were adopted which also made it easier to recognize the 23 horizontal bars between the two circles, which I think denoted the idea of multiple simultaneous interbank relationships. The logo looks more contemporary and simple, with an italic, sans-serif typeface.

In 1996, a more prominent font replaces the old font, and the number of bars was also reduced, resulting in a simple and powerful logo. The Brand Mark’s visibility, recognition, and overall brand image are improved, with new features including larger lettering highlighted with a drop shadow, fewer interlocking bars within the red and yellow circles, and a new dark blue background for use on decals and signage.

Official Link

13. Mozilla Firefox

An open source web browser, created by Dave Hyatt and Blake Ross, was first of all named as Phoenix, which is visible in their first logo in 2002. Due to some trademark issues, the name had to be changed to Firebird, but the name was chosen so that they would be able to retain the same logo.

Unfortunately, this name also had trademark issues because of existing software. Then, they finally got lucky and chose the name Firefox, which has become one of the favorite and most used browser worldwide. In 2003, the now famous logo was designed by professional interface designer John Hicks.

The logo depicted a Firefox engulfing the whole world, which also signifies the global reach that the company strived for. There has been a minor change in the logo since then, with the colors of the continents using a lighter blue color, just to differentiate them better from the oceans.

Official Link

14. Pepsi

Today, one of the biggest soft drinks company, was first started by Caleb Bradham in 1890′s. Initially named as Brad’s drink the name was quickly changed to Pepsi-Cola, which is visible in the first 1898 logo. Finally in 1903, the name was trademarked and hasn’t been changed till date.

In the early years, Brad made custom logos for the brand as it became more famous. In 1933, the company was bought by Loft, Inc. The company changed the bottle size from 6 to 12 oz. and came up with the ‘Refreshing and Healthful’ logo.

However, the major breakthrough in the Pepsi logo design came in 1940’s. Walter Mack, the CEO of Pepsi came up with the idea of a new bottle design, with a crown having the Pepsi logo. The ‘Pepsi Globe’ emerged when USA was in WWII, and to support the country’s war efforts, Pepsi had a blue, red and white logo.

This logo became hugely popular, and went on to be the identifier for the company. As a result, in 1950 and 1962, this bottle cap with the swirling blue and red became prominent in the company logo. During the 1960’s when it became even more popular, the script was changed from the curly red, and the main attraction was on the bottle cap in the logo.

We see the first appearance of the Pepsi Globe instead of the bottle cap in 1973. The typeface was made smaller so as to fit in the globe. The Pepsi Globe was “boxed in”, with a red bar coming in from the left and a light-blue bar coming in from the right.

In 1991, the typeface was moved from inside the globe. The red bar was lengthened and the typeface came on the top of the globe. In 1998, the white background in the logo was replaced by the blue color, which also resulted in dropping the red horizontal band. The globe now had 3D graphic and larger than earlier versions. It might be that since, Pepsi and the globe touch each other for the first time in the logo, the name ‘the Pepsi Globe’ was given to the logo.

After 1998, it seems that Pepsi had decided to give the globe more prominence than the script itself. So, the globe came on top of the script in 2003, and in their current logo they have done away with the script altogether.

Official Link

15. LG

LG was formed from two different companies named Lucky (chemical cosmetic company, 1947) and Goldstar (radio manufacturing plant, 1958). Though, these were different companies they were essentially owned by one person. In 1995, Lucky Goldstar was renamed to LG Electronics.

Actually, LG is a chaebol (a South Korean conglomerate), so there’s a whole range of LG companies that also changed their names, such as LG Chemicals, LT Telecom, and even a baseball team called the LG Twins. These companies all adopted the “Life is Good” tagline you often see alongside its logo. LG denies that their name now stands for Lucky Goldstar. They’re just “LG.”

Official Link

16. Mercedes-Benz

The Mercedes-Benz was formed by the merger of two car companies – DMG (Daimler-Motored-Gesellschaft, founded by Gottlieb Daimler) and Benz & Cie, founded by Karl Benz. Both the companies were similar in their work and were situated in close proximity.

It was after the World War I, when the German economy was shattered, that both these companies decided to from a syndicate in 1924, and then finally merge in 1926, called Diamler-Benz.

In 1902, the logo for Mercedes was nothing more than the simple company name. However, it was changed to a 3 pointed star in 1909. The origin of this star came from a postcard by Diamler, where he had drawn a 3 pointed star which represented ‘making vehicles in land water and sky’.

After 1926, a new symbol for Mercedes-Benz came into picture, where the original logo of both the companies was merged into one. It combined the 3 pointed star of Mercedes and the laurel wreath of Benz.

Over the years, the symbol has been improved vastly in design and simplicity. It has been recognized as a symbol representing luxury and top tier cars.

Official Link

17. General Electric

The company has a great history. It was formed in 1892 by the merger of Edison Electric Light Company (founded by Thomas Edison to sell his invention, the light bulb) and Thomson-Houston Electric Company.

The basic logo font face is still quite similar to what it was in 1892. Over time, a circle engulfing the company name has been added to the logo, which might be due to the increasing global presence and vision of the company. The current logo, which was designed by Wolff Olins, adds blue color to the logo instead of the black color which had been used in all the previous logos. Accompanied with the logo change was also a change in the tagline of the company from “We bring good things to life” to “Imagination at work”.

Official Link

18. Nokia

‘Nokia’ in Finnish means means a dark, furry animal we now call the Pine Marten weasel. However, this has little to do with the current business and brand image. The origin of the company name, can rather be attributed to the setting up of the wood pulp mill (set up by Knut Fredrik Idestam), on the banks of Nokianvirta river in the town of Nokia.

The Nokia Corporation was formed as a merger of Finnish Rubber Works (which also used a Nokia brand), the Nokia Wood Mill, and the Finnish Cable Works in 1967. The company has sold a variety of products in the past including television, shoes, car tires and others. The evolution and the meaning of the logo is unclear due to the changing business over the years.

Official Link

19. Ford

Henry Ford used to work for Thomas Edison. He founded two companies before settling on Ford. His first company went bankrupt after just two years, and he left the second company after just one year. However, the second company became Cadillac later on. His third company, founded in 1902, was called Ford & Malcomson, Ltd.

He was unable to pay the bills for parts in his third company, but some investors agreed to put money in the company, and it was renamed as Ford Motor Co. This is the company name in the first logo of 1903. The 1909 logo, which has a similar font as today’s logo was borrowed from Childe Harold Wills, who had made this font for his business card.

In 1912, the Ford logo was given a complete makeover, as compared to the earlier simplistic design. When a car was launched in 1927, called Model A, the famous blue oval was introduced in the logo. This was the shape and color, on which all future Ford logos have been made.

The company has experimented with different shape going from ellipse to circle, and even a diamond like shape in 1957. The 1976 logo was essentially, the last major change in the symbol, and is very similar to their current logo. Finally, in 2003, the company released a new logo, which came to be known as “Centennial Blue Oval”.

Official Link

20. Wal-Mart

The company has tried out various colors and variation of the word Walmart over the years. In 1962, when Sam Walton started, the company, the logo had simply the word spelled in a very basic design.

The logo was changed in 1964, when a hyphen was added and the color was also changed from blue to black. This came to be known as the “Frontier Font Logo”. The 1968 logo shown here is the discount city logo, which was mainly used for uniforms, in-store signing etc, but it was never used to advertise or even in annual reports.
The 1981 logo changed the curly font to a more solid font, giving the company a more stable, established and balanced look. The hyphen in this logo was replaced by the star in 1992, and the familiar blue color of the logo returned for the first time after the company’s inception.

Walmart is probably one of the few companies, who have tried so many logos, but their current logo is more like the original logo, other than any other intermediate logo. The font differs a little from the original and is indeed more stylish, but the ‘Walmart’ word without a break appears for the first time after 1962. They have kept the star from 1992, but moved it to the end.

Official Link

Find something Missing?

Is your favorite Logo Evolution not on the list? Share it with us in the comments, along with the link if you have any.

Some Detailed Logo History References!

If you like to read some interesting Corporate Brand Logo Evolutions in details the refer the following list.

· Apple Logo History

· Shell Logo History

· Xerox’s Logo Evolution

· BMW Logo History

· IBM Logo History

· Canon Logo History

· Googl Logo History

· Kodak Logo History

· Microsoft Logo History

· MasterCard Logo History

· FireFox Logo History

· Pepsi Logo history

· LG Logo History

· Mercedes-Benz Logo History

· Nokia Logo History

· GE Logo History

· WalMart Logo History

· All In One Resource For Logo Histories!

The 5 Minute Guide To Cheap Startup Advertising

The following is a guest post by Rob Walling. Rob Walling has been an entrepreneur for most of his life and is author of the book Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer’s Guide to Launching a Startup. He also authors the top 20 startup blogSoftware By Rob, that’s read by tens of thousands of startup entrepreneurs every month and he owns the leading ASP.NET invoicing software on the market in addition to a handful of profitable web properties.

Imagine that you’ve just completed version 1 of your product and you’re preparing for launch. You’ve greased the wheels with a few bloggers, targeted some keywords with SEO, created a bit of linkbait, and scheduled the press release to launch in the morning. At this point your co-founder turns to you and says: “What are we going to do with the $300 we have stashed away for advertising?” Consider this your lucky day. The goal of this article is to provide you with the core of what you need to know about cheap startup advertising as quickly as possible, so you can start spending that ad budget wisely. Let’s get started.

Two Key Advertising Strategies

The half-life of advertising traffic is zero. This means that the moment you stop shelling out cash, the traffic stops. The problem is that with typical conversion rates of 1-2% you’re paying for 98 or 99 out of every 100 people to walk away and never come back to your site. To combat this inherent wastefulness of advertising, I have two key strategies I recommend no matter which method of advertising you use.

Strategy #1: Try to Get Permission

Seriously consider offering something in exchange for a visitor’s email address. It can be a free trial, a free report, or maybe even a free book. But gaining the means and permission to contact that customer again will increase your conversion rate over time in most cases. There is great power in an email list.

Strategy #2: Use Advertising to Test

Use advertising as a testing tool rather than a long-term stream of customers. Very few startups can withstand the cash outlay required to turn advertising into a marketing activity with positive ROI. Even if you figure it out, advertising is a volatile marketing medium. Prices increase rapidly in online advertising as new competition crops up or prospects grow bored of your ad and your click through rate drops. When this happens, all of the time you invested in optimizing your ad campaign is *poof*…gone. So instead of relying on ad traffic as an ongoing stream, use it for what it’s best at: the ability to generate a slew of visitors very quickly, and to be turned off just as quickly. This kind of traffic source makes it great for split testing and user behavior testing using tools like Clicktale and Crazyegg. It also gives you insight into how certain traffic converts for you. With properly tracked conversions and an ad on Facebook, you can determine that men from 35-45 convert at a rate 15% lower than women of the same age. This is valuable information, especially early in your marketing effort when you’re still trying to figure out the ideal market for your application. Often this is not the largest market; it’s the one to whom you can market for the lowest cost. As another example, with AdWords you can learn in a hurry which keywords convert for you, and which don’t. This is insanely valuable as you invest the time and money on the long-haul of search engine optimization. Knowing the keywords that really convertfor your business, as opposed to the ones that you think will convert, can save you piles of cash and many months of SEO effort.

The "First Five" Advertising Options

With the above strategies in mind, let’s look at the first five advertising options you should consider.

Option #1: Niche Advertising

As a startup, there are hundreds of general advertising options available, and thousands more niche opportunities. Depending on the niche you’re catering to you should be able to find a forum, blog, magazine or website in which to spend some ad dollars. The tighter the niche the better. Remember that niche sites tend to be cheaper to advertise on and drive more targeted traffic, which makes a huge difference in your conversion rate. (And if you’re not targeting a niche because you want your audience to be the "whole world," you’re going to need a lot more than $300 in your ad budget). In general, if you are marketing to a niche you will know the sites to target. If you don’t it’s time to pound the pavement and find out what they are. By "pound the pavement" I mean search on Google and contact people in the niche to find out where they hang out online. Two reputable niche ad networks I’ve worked with in the past are:

  • InfluAds – With an increasing number of advertising "communities" covering design & UX, startups and entrepreneurs, work & productivity and web development, InfluAds can work with budgets as small as the $300-400 range. They sell a minimum set of granted impressions, and if more traffic is available during a month then existing advertisers receive it for free. Image ads only.
  • BuySellAds – Though they’ve traditionally focused on the design & UX space, BuySellAds is in the process of branching into many other niches. This image-only ad network was the primary source of traffic for a design-oriented website I owned, and made the difference between a few hundred dollars a month in sales, and a few thousand. Advertising is purchased by impression or on a monthly basis from individual advertisers, meaning each offers different pricing. But the minimum buy is very cheap – in the $10-$20/month range.

Option #2: Google AdWords

  • Ad Format: Text or image
  • Ad Components (for text ads): 25-character deadline, 2 lines of body copy @ 35 characters each, 35-character display URL
  • Approval Process: Automated, with manual review if you trip a filter

A few years ago, Google AdWords was great for startups. Many niches were untouched, and 5 and 10 cent clicks were commonplace. But these days, the vast majority of niches worth pursuing have ever-escalating click prices as more advertising dollars move online, including dollars from large corporations that don’t blink an eye about spending $5 to produce a single visitor to their website. With a 1% conversion rate you need a $500 lifetime customer value to break even. This is more than a stretch for most startups who are scraping by on 0.5% conversion rates and sub-$100 lifetime customer values (at least to start with). But with Google carpet-bombing $75 AdWords coupons to every business in the civilized world, the number of advertisers, and thus the competition, is increasing. For the most part, the days of cheap clicks are over. The $1-2 per click I used to pay to advertise my invoicing software has become a negative ROI for me at $4-5 per click. But all is not lost. There is still a place in the backwoods of AdWords where the wild-west mentality (and cheap clicks) reign. That place is the content network. People traditionally think of Google AdWords as the ads that appear to the right of the search results. But the lesser known cousin of search ads are the ads that appear in every AdSense block you see around the web. These are ads placed through the Google AdWords content network. The content network is less targeted, higher volume, and typically much cheaper to advertise on, than the search results. While we don’t have time here to delve into specifics of how to place ads on the content network, the most consistent approach I’ve seen that works over the long-term is to use their cost-per-action tool called the Conversion Optimizer. There’s a great write-up of how it works from Patrick McKenzie of Bingo Card Creator fame, here. There are also some helpful tips on advertising on the content network here. And if you’re willing to drop a few bucks, by far the best AdWords book available is the Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords, which includes a section on using the content network.

Option #3: Facebook

  • Ad Format: Text with required image
  • Ad Components: 110×80 image, 25 character headline, 135 characters of body copy
  • Approval Process: Manual (sometimes slow)

Facebook is still viable for startups with its ability to deliver 10-15 cent clicks under the right circumstances. But it’s a bit like the Wild West: if you approach Facebook advertising incorrectly you will pay a premium, around 75-90 cents per click. The value of Facebook is its ability to show your ads to exactly who you want to see it based on information in a user’s profile. You can easily segment on gender, age, location, relationship status and a number of other fixed parameters, along with thousands of interests and occupations you can target using keywords. The key to low cost Facebook clicks is having a high click through rate (CTR). The key to a high CTR is a combination of a powerful image, an engaging headline, and laser-focused targeting. Due to space constraints we’re not going to cover the basics of choosing a powerful image or writing an engaging headline. Not when there are perfectly good articles already written on the subject for those who would like to know more: choosing an image / writing a headline. But once your ad is written, there is a trick to achieving those 10 cent clicks. Based on a tip from my friend JD, I now use the following method with Facebook ads:

  1. Target your demographic information so tightly that you can write a headline that addresses them specifically. Example: if you are selling shoes online to the U.S. market, create 10 different versions of the ad, one for each of the major metro areas in the U.S. Also include the qualifying "interests" keyword: shoes. Now make each ad headline address its group specifically, using a formula like "Need Shoes in [city name]?"
  2. Start the ads with a modest budget of, say, $5-10 per ad per day.
  3. After 12-24 hours review the ads. Some will have high CTRs and costs per click around 10-15 cents. Others will have low CTRs and clicks in the 80-90 cent range.
  4. Pause the higher cost ads and increase the budget for the low cost ads to whatever you can afford; $100 per day or more per ad.
  5. For a few days you will receive extremely low-cost, targeted traffic. But since you’ve chosen a small group of people, they will start to tune out the ad rather quickly. At this point your CTR will drop and your cost will climb. Pause the ad, and start over with new cities, new images or new headlines.

This approach requires ongoing maintenance but if you can generate targeted, 10-cent clicks it’s worth the effort.

Option #4: StumbleUpon

  • Ad Format: not applicable
  • Ad Components: just your URL
  • Approval Process: Manual

I recently advertised my developer’s guide to launching a startup on StumbleUpon. The plus side of StumbleUpon is that all clicks are 5 cents. The downside is the bounce rate is high since people are basically channel surfing. I achieved a 96.88% bounce rate in my experiment, with an average stay of 2 seconds. I wonder if it was something I said? In my test, only 25 visitors stayed longer than 5 seconds. I paid $50 for 1000 clicks, but since only 25 of them stayed long enough to read anything, I effectively paid $2 per click. Your mileage may vary, but through this and other experiments I’ve gathered the following tips for advertising on StumbleUpon:

  • Your #1 goal is to get stumblers to stay longer than 5 seconds. Your #2 goal is to get them to up-vote your page. Paying $50 for 1000 clicks is one thing. Having it go viral and receiving 10,000 clicks for the same price is another.
  • Don’t send StumbleUpon traffic to a landing page that asks for an email address. StumbleUpon users are notoriously fickle about providing their email.
  • People stumble to be entertained, so if your page doesn’t have the potential to go viral or turn into linkbait, you will not likely fare well.
  • Blog-like content and videos seem to work best. Anything that resembles a traditional landing page will bomb.

Option #5: Reddit

  • Ad Format: Text with optional image
  • Ad Components: 70×70 image, title, URL
  • Approval Process: Manual (two-day lead time)

Reddit uses an interesting approach for their ad pricing: advertisers bid a certain amount per day, all of the money goes into one big pot, and each advertiser receives their share of the impressions based on the percetage of funds they contributed. It’s a simple system, but it means there’s a bit of uncertainty about what you’re going to get for your money. However, Reddit has the potential to provide some very cheap clicks – I’ve seen as low as 3 cents – if you play your card right. Similar to StumbleUpon, Reddit provides your ad with the potential to go viral. Gabriel Weinberg has agreat write-up of the 20,700 clicks he scored for 3.14 cents each for his new search engine Duck Duck Go. His eye-catching image and tech-focused startup served him well with the audience. As he says:

First, a search engine ad is a good fit for reddit ads in general. It has broad market appeal and redditters in general like trying out new technology. Second, I think the ad is particularly well structured. The circular duck icon draws your attention, is contrasting to site colors, and sticks out because it is a circle (as most images are square). I believe the title also has appeal.

Gyutae Park also has a nice write-up of the 434 clicks he purchased for 9 cents each here. One of my recent experiments was a bit more pricey: 187 clicks at 40 cents each. My lackluster performance was a combination of landing on a competitive advertising day, and using a poor-quality header image. In retrospect, I have no idea what I was thinking using this unreadable image: Reddit ads are so simple (just two visible components) that the only tip I have is self-evident: your image has to rock, and so does your title. It’s all about choosing an image and headline that makes people click.

Conclusion

To conclude, I want to reiterate what I said early in this article: unless you have deep pockets think of advertising not as a long-term traffic strategy, but as a testing tool to improve your website and find out more about your ideal visitor. Few bootstrapped startups can withstand the cash outlay required to turn advertising into a marketing activity with a positive ROI, but that shouldn’t keep you from testing the waters to find out for yourself. I look forward to hearing about your advertising experience and recommendations in the comments.Like this site? Help spread the word.